10 Tips To Help You Help An Aging Parent
Understanding how to help an aging parent can be one of the most difficult challenges for family caregivers. It’s a delicate situation: You want them safe and healthy while aging in place, but you don’t want them to feel like you’re overbearing.
Your parent may feel that your intervention threatens their independence. But to you, some steps, like talking to them about giving about driving, promote long-term independence because it lowers the risk of injury.
Finding the best approach, assessing your parent’s needs, knowing your options, and taking action is a lot to handle. However, a concrete action plan can help you feel on top of the situation.
Here are 10 tips to help an aging parent. These can help you develop a practical, achievable strategy to support your loved one and preserve their well-being.
1. Evaluate Your Parent’s Needs
As a family caregiver, your responsibilities can feel overwhelming if you don’t know what to do. You can solve this problem by stepping back from the situation to assess the level of support your parent needs throughout the day. As you do, consider these eight things:
- Home safety
- Family support
- Cognitive health
- Social interaction
- Personal hygiene
- Meal preparation
- Medical needs
Then, think about the amount of help they currently receive in each area and how much they actually need to maintain their health and safety. Keep everything in a separate caregiving journal (or your phone) to monitor your parent’s needs and determine which services they require.
For example, suppose your mother, who has osteoporosis and balance problems, lives alone in the rural countryside and lacks a nutritious diet. Plus, she has no nearby relatives, and you live in another state. So, she’ll need assistance with home safety, meals, family support, and mobility.
You could hire an in-home caregiver to meet all these needs and others as well. A caregiver can provide transportation, meal preparation, companionship, and help with light housework. Additionally, they can report back to you and monitor your parent’s health while you’re far away.
2. Consider Your Needs And Capabilities
Every family caregiver is different, so before you assume that you can shoulder your parent’s care alone, reflect on your current situation and abilities and ask yourself:
- Are you healthy enough to physically care for your loved one?
- Do you live near enough to your parent that you can visit as often you should?
- Would you be willing to move in with them or let them move in with you?
- Could you spend extended time together without either of you experiencing negative emotions?
- Is your personality conducive to the type of care your parent requires?
- Would you be prepared to learn how to offer that care?
You want your loved one to be happy, safe, and healthy. It’s not selfish or callous if you’re not in a position to give that care. You’re just as attentive and helpful for watching for your parent’s best interests and preparing the help they need.
You should be honest with yourself early on to avoid placing yourself in an unsustainable position. If you bite off more than you can chew and experience caregiver burnout, you’ll be unable to care for your loved one or yourself.
3. Let Your Parent Feel Respected
Before you swoop in, stop and ask if they want your help in the first place. For example, if you take your father to the doctor, don’t presume he wants you sitting in during the visit. Instead, ask if he’s comfortable with you being there for the whole appointment or if you can come at the end to talk to your parent’s doctor yourself.
Despite their age and changing needs, they’ll always be your parents, and you should treat them as such. While caring for them can be frustrating at times, try not to be critical or condescending. Aging is a complicated process, and your loved one may not be intentionally problematic. Typically, the more controlling you are, the more opposition you’ll encounter.
4. Involve Your Parent
Everyone fears losing their independence, particularly older adults who may already worry about the prospect. For this reason, it’s crucial you include your parent as much as you can while developing a care plan. Doing so will position you as a helper instead of someone who controls their life.
Your parent will possibly be hesitant or unwilling at first, so it may require several discussions. But that’s okay — if there’s no existing threat, avoid pushing too much too hard and too soon.
A productive idea is beginning with smaller, less invasive changes and increasing the amount of care incrementally. Unless there’s an immediate danger, get them comfortable with accepting your help by concentrating on just one or two essential requirements. Then, gradually supplement this until their needs are entirely met.
5. Give Your Parents Options
Rather than resolving incomplete tasks or finding a solution to every issue, let your parents approach you. When they share things that require your assistance, try to curb your involvement to only those activities for the time being.
Your loved one might struggle to ask for help, so it’s important that you listen when expressing how they feel or what they’re going through. If specific tasks worries or bothers them, gently inquire if they want your support.
Even if they turn you down, you will have shown them that you care and want to help. Most seniors value feeling heard and knowing that someone cares about them. Offer your assistance when it comes up, but don’t force anything unless there is a pressing need.
Of course, if your parent doesn’t fully recognize their limitations or abilities, you will have to take a different approach, so they understand. Expressing genuine worry for their health and safety is typically the most effective way.
If they reject your offer, then find out if they would take help from someone else. In some cases, older adults are more willing to accept care from a paid caregiver. Outside help ensures your parent’s needs are met without placing a strain on your relationship. No matter what decision you make, cooperation between both parties is key.
6. Let Your Parent Call The Shots
If feasible, carry out tasks with your aging parent rather than doing it for them. Although this strategy takes more time than doing it by yourself, letting them take the initiative helps your parent keep their independence. This can also boost their self-esteem and retain their functional abilities.
At times, older adults stop doing routine tasks and wait for the family caregiver to do it for them. However, this adds extra work for you and can quickly diminish their mental and physical abilities. You want to help your aging parent, not make them dependent on you.
7. Take Your Financial Situations Into Account
Caring for an aging parent will always bring added expenses, so it’s best to prepare for future costs by evaluating factors such as:
- Medical care
- Housing expenses, such as assisted living, in-home care, or living with you
- Necessities, like food, caregiving resources, or home safety modifications
When you have a better understanding of your parent’s financial situation, you can determine whether they can cover the care they require or if you should find financial assistance.
There are many online resources to locate relief programs. Check your parent’s Medicaid plan or look for local and federal programs to help your parent afford long-term care.
You could also work with an elder law attorney or financial advisor to navigate Medicaid. Either way, having a plan in place can avoid an unnecessary financial burden for you or your parent.
8. Make Sure Your Parent’s Home Is Safe
Home modifications are essential to your loved one’s health, safety, and independence. Minor safety risks can go unnoticed and compound with time, increasing the likelihood of a fall or injury. Look for safety basics such as:
- Clutter-free floors and walkways (including cords, rugs, and furniture)
- Grab bars and handrails in the bathroom, bedroom, and stairs
- Ample lighting and accessible switches
- Working appliances that are well within reach
For more ideas, check out this helpful home safety guide for seniors.
9. Give Your Parent An Easy Way To Communicate
One of the best things to help an aging parent is giving them a simple, straightforward means to contact you, relatives, and friends. Senior social isolation is a serious problem among older adults that can deteriorate their well-being and quality of life.
If your loved one has a phone, make sure they know how to use it. For some seniors, a smartphone with all the bells and whistles may not be necessary, so you may consider a simpler device with programmable numbers. Alternatively, you could also suggest a wearable medical device for added safety.
10. Research Long-Term Care Options
Caring for your loved one can still be a lot to manage, even when you take it step-by-step. However, you don’t have to do it alone. You have a range of options and resources for family caregivers such as:
- Geriatric care managers who can manage a part or all of your parent’s care plan. Their expertise can save you time, money, and stress.
- In-home caregivers who can care for your parent at home. You can hire caregivers privately or through an agency.
- Assisted living facilities are designed for seniors who require around-the-clock care or are unable to live alone.
- Geriatricians specialize in senior care and are specially trained to help older adults with more than one health condition, cognitive disease, and more.
- Area Agency on Aging, a county-level government program that connects seniors and their families to local resources and government assistance.
Meetcaregivers Can Help You Help An Aging Parent
If you live far away from your parent, need respite care, or someone to supplement your support throughout the week, we can help.
Call 1-888-541-1136 and ask about our process. We’ll match you and your loved one with the perfect caregiver based on their needs.
For more resources for seniors, families, and caregivers, visit the Blog.
- DailyCaring Editorial Team. “7 Steps to Take When Aging Parents Need Help.” DailyCaring, 17 Sept. 2020, dailycaring.com/7-steps-to-take-when-aging-parents-need-help/.
- Samotin, Sheri. “5 Tips for Helping Aging Parents Without Taking Over.” AgingCare.com, 11 June 2020, www.agingcare.com/articles/how-to-help-aging-parents-149102.htm.